Tonight, FC Dallas has a chance to make a big statement in the race for the MLS Cup. With their playoff hopes on the line, FCD will travel to Seattle to take on the number one seeded Seattle Sounders in the second leg of the Conference Semifinals.
If FC Dallas wants to win its first MLS Cup in franchise history, they will have to earn it, starting tonight against a very motivated Seattle side. Let’s take a look at this matchup by the numbers and see how they will affect the game.
This number represents the average attendance for Seattle this season. In case you were wondering, that’s nearly twice the attendance of any other team in the MLS. Their fans get loud, they know their stuff, and for a playoff match, they will create quite the home field advantage.
One might be a small number, but the one road goal that Seattle scored in Dallas last week is massive. Because of that goal, Seattle doesn’t have to score tonight, so long as they keep Dallas out of the net. Tactically, it’s a huge advantage for Seattle.
-1 (negative numbers count)
Away from home this season, FC Dallas has a -1 goal differential. In other words, they were about even with their opponents on the road. Not a bad tally at all. However, couple that with Seattle’s +15 goal differential at home, Dallas has their work cut out for them.
(How about some encouraging news?!)
During last week’s first leg, Seattle completed just 62% of their passes against FCD. This was partially due to Dallas’ setup in the midfield with both Michel and Ulloa breaking up play, but mostly a result of the stout defensive partnership of Matt Hedges and Zach Loyd.
Loyd and Hedges should (read: BETTER) pair together again in tonight’s game. If Dallas has any hopes of advancing, those two need to play out of their minds again. 62% would be another incredible result. I think if the number is that low again, we might be sitting here next week talking about FCD vs. LA in the Conference Championship.
Another percentage: Tesho Akindele, one of the frontrunners for MLS Rookie of the Year award, has the highest scoring chance creation percentage of any player on the FCD roster. For this reason and many others, Akindele needs to start.
Compare Akindele’s 23.3% to Fabian Castillo’s 13.5%. Castillo is arguably our biggest goal scoring threat, but he’s not that great at creating chances for his teammates. Akindele’s team play is what Castillo needs to be more dangerous. Put him in, Pareja! Put him in, coach!
The number ten position in this Dallas squad tonight will decide the game. Will it be Mauro Diaz, who is returning from a one game suspension, or will it be someone else? If you ask me, Diaz should get the nod from the start.
Diaz is so good in the No. 10 role. Maybe that’s an understatement, but as I sit here, “so good” is the superlative that comes to mind. His vision is unlike any other FCD player, plus his pace allows him to run in behind defenses and create a chance of his own. Again, put him in, coach!
The key to tonight’s game will be Dallas’ ability to break down Seattle’s back line while preventing Martins and Dempsey from scoring on the break. Dallas has to push forward. Seattle can absorb the pressure and leave Martins at the halfway line, feed him a clearance, and watch him linkup with the rest of his team.
FCD HAS TO WORK TOGETHER. They can’t be selfish. They have to play as a team, especially tonight. An individual run will not beat this Seattle team, not tonight.